Whēkau - Gut Health, Part 1

Anybody who knows me or follows my instagram knows that health is a huge priority of mine. Health to me comes in many aspects, the food I eat, the amount I move and the thoughts I have. Of late from listening to podcasts, reading a wide variety of articles and attending seminars with Ben Warren and Dr Libby, the importance of gut health and what affects the gut have moved further and further to the top of my consciousness.

 Image courtesy of Ryan O'Connor

Image courtesy of Ryan O'Connor

A little back ground on my personal health adventures:

I'm from the wheetbix/cornflakes/rice bubbles generation, growing up with two brothers, all of us ravenous, as they were busy rowing and I was busy swimming, playing soccer, waterpolo and volleyball, meant options for our parents were sandwiches, toast or more cereals.

Thankfully as a child I was sick probably once a year some times less and so my antibiotics load as a child and teenager were relatively low. Argue all you like around vaccines and associations with various things, but I was vaccinated as a child, teenager, and again as part of my requirements to see patients as an optometrist, and no I did not have adverse events thank you for your concern, more on this later.

University was where my health began to take a turn, a few clear associations were excessive binge drinking, often multiple times a week, high levels of sleep deprivation (cue often falling asleep in lectures or at my desk studying), high levels of stress, and a poor diet of high carbohydrates, packets and packets of mi goreng noodles and a severe lack of green leafy vegetables.

The result of poor habits for 5 of the 7 years of university lead to glandular fever, severe tonsillitis and bronchitis from strep throat (cue antibiotics), excruciating gut cramps when exercising, myochemia (uncontrollable eye twitching) for the last 6 months of my degree, an inability to get to sleep at nights despite being exhausted and looking back on things despite making my way through my dream career, training and enjoying a great time in my flat and in my sport I was borderline depressed. I am very thankful for having purpose, exercise and a great group of mates at this point in my life or else who knows what could have happened.

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So where does that leave me today...?

Since finishing my uni days and working, I have consistently been working on myself and tying to identify who I am. This has lead me to explore psychotherapy, floating and reading a number of books and blogs. My training has changed a lot from training to be big and aesthetic to training for longevity (this still means training for muscle mass and to be lean but also mobile and dynamic), a lot of my training is based around the ability to go hunting; this requires you to be able to walk long distances often up still hills and mountains with a pack on your back, be able to control your heart rate should you come across an animal and be able to lift and carry the animal out again. I changed my diet from a grain based carbohydrate diet, to a low carbohydrate, nutrient dense healthy fat based diet, exploring periods of ketogenic eating and fasting.

Despite all this, a few factors weighed on my mind:

  • What was the damage those university years had done?
  • I would still get periods of exhaustion and myochemia, what was causing this?

I would have periods of lethargy, loss of grip strength and power. I had general anaesthetic for my hip surgery and when I would get sick, I was very sick- Man Flu is real. Finally at the end of this years rugby season I suffered a severe concussion that was a massive concern for me, I wanted to make sure my energy was back to normal and that the head nock hadn't literally shaken up my hormonal function.

So after Alex had had such great success at removing endometriosis with her work with Dr Steve, with a baby on the way I thought it was my time to clear things up.

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Ryan O'Connor

You can catch Ryan over on his podcast, The Stag Roar, on his blog, on his YouTube channel, and @stagryan for Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter.